Kobe Bryant had yet to take the court against Dwight Howard since the Rockets big man bolted Los Angeles for Texas. After all, Bryant played just six games last season — none of which were against the Rockets.
Tuesday night, as the Lakers opened the 2014-15 campaign, that opportunity came and there were fireworks.
In the fourth quarter with the Rockets having the game in hand, Bryant defended Howard in the backcourt as he tried to find a teammate to pass to.
Howard swung an elbow, hitting Bryant in the face.
The Lakers guard took exception to it and the two exchanged words and needed to be separated by officials.
Bryant was assessed a personal foul. Howard was assessed a flagrant one, and both received technical fouls.
The Staples Center crowd, who continued to boo Howard as if it were the first time he appeared in Los Angeles since leaving, grew as loud as they had all night.
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"You can’t help but like him. He’s a teddy bear. You can’t help but like him. I really mean that. He’s a really nice kid. When you’re competing and you have a goal in mind, I know one way to get there. There’s certain times where we don’t see eye-to-eye, but that wasn’t one of those situations. It was just he elbowed me in the face, and I’m going to let him know that I don’t like that. It’s that simple."
Howard, when asked about the exchange said "I’m not even focused on it."
After the exchange, both Bryant and Howard were taken out of the game and neither returned with 7:07 to play and the Rockets up by 26. On Nov. 19, the Lakers have a visit set to Houston. Perhaps, then the two can exchange more pleasantries.